Water, not fire, has been keeping local BC Wildfire Service Rapattack crews busy recently in efforts to protect municipal infrastructure in Salmon Arm and Sicamous.
One crew was at Canoe Beach on the morning of June 16, filling sandbags to place around city lift and pump stations as well the cafe.
Another crew was in Sicamous filling bags and placing them around similar infrastructure near the channel.
Among those overseeing the work at Canoe Beach was Shuswap Emergency Program coordinator Tom Hansen. He said gabion baskets were expected to be added to the protective barriers going up in advance of high water, to protect from erosion from wake/waves and flooding.
“It’s really preventative because the hardest thing for us to predict is the amount of rain and storms we’re going to get between now and the end of June, and in July, and it’s too late once it’s high enough so we’ve got to get this protection stuff in now,” said Hansen. “And it will protect all this infrastructure in case the worst happens.”
Hansen explained the Rapattack crews were made available through a coordinated effort with the province and Emergency Management BC.
“We have plans – because we’ve done this before – we have plans laid out on what we need to do at certain levels of lake height,” said Hansen.
He said sand and sandbags are available in different locations in Salmon Arm and elsewhere in the region, including at Blackburn Park, Salmon Arm’s public works yard on 30th Street SE, in the Little Mountain park overflow parking, at 73rd Avenue NE (Captain’s Cove) and 75th Avenue NE by the Canoe wharf.
As Rapattack crews were filling sandbags, so was Russ Tompkins, who lives beside the Canoe wharf.
He too was being proactive, getting sandbags out on his property to protect from high water, wake and erosion.
“Hopefully we don’t get warm weather and rain…,” said Tompkins, who has had his share of sandbagging experience, including in 2018 when Shuswap Lake peaked at 349.141 metres. “It seems like once it gets up to 349, it slows down coming up. It’s coming in more but it’s going out more.
“I don’t like to sit around and watch it, so this is what I’m doing.”
The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) is monitoring Shuswap Lake levels and sharing daily measurements on its website.
As of Tuesday morning, June 21, the lake was at 348.610 metres. The level on June 20 was 348.576 m., so it increased 0.034 m or 1.3 inches in a 24-hour period.
Sand and/or bags are available in 22 locations throughout the Shuswap. They are listed on the regional district’s website.
“Property owners are responsible for taking steps and having the necessary equipment to protect their properties from flooding,” said the CSRD in a June 14 media release.
“Residents are reminded that to be most effective, sandbags should be placed on high ground, as close as possible to homes or buildings.”
The BC River Forecast Centre listed the Shuswap River and the South and North Thompson rivers, and surrounding tributaries, on Flood Watch status June 19, meaning river levels are rising and will approach or may exceed riverbanks.
This story was updated on June 21, 2022.
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